There weren’t many teams that managed to beat Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 90s’ during their run, but the Orlando Magic, led by a young Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, are one of the rare ones to do it. It was an unbelievable experience for a young Shaq, as he shared what MJ taught him at that time.
When Michael Jordan retired for the first time in 1993, the NBA’s landscape opened completely. The Rockets would take advantage of the opportunity and win in 1994, but Michael couldn’t stay away from the game too long.
Jordan would return near the end of the 1995 regular season and instantly make the Bulls the team to beat again. But on his path back to the Finals, MJ and the Bulls would come across a heavy task. The Orlando Magic, led by a young Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and a supporting cast full of quality players like Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, etc.
The Bulls might have been the favorites, but the Magic had them on the ropes, and they could feel it. Shaq explained how he was terrified of MJ and the possibility of getting dunked on:
« Before the game, I was terrified, but to relieve pressure off that, I ain’t gotta guard him. The second thing I said, can’t let him dunk on me. That’s not gonna happen. It was a play when he’s coming baseline. I had to touch him up. Because I’m not getting dunked on, I’ll never live that down from family members, homeboys, barbershops. That’ll be a poster forever. »
Shaquille O’Neal, NBA Tonight
And Shaq would hold true to this word, fouling MJ hard at the rim at one point in order to stop him from dunking. O’Neal tried to be a good sportsman, but Michael taught him a valuable lesson at that moment:
« But Mike also taught me something very valuable. When I go to help him up, he said: ‘Don’t ever help nobody up. Great foul. I don’t do that. I don’t need your help. But I’m coming back, don’t you worry!’ Mike is the guy that taught me how to get to the next level. »
Shaquille O’Neal, NBA Tonight
Sure enough, the Magic would go on to bounce out the Bulls in six games, with a 22-year-old Shaq averaging 24.3ppg and 13.2rpg for the series. The heroic effort of Michael Jordan (31.0 ppg, 6.5 RPG, 3.7 apg) wasn’t enough to get the Bulls back to the promised land that year.
But that Magic team was a bit too green for the ring, getting swept by the Rockets in the 1995 Finals, getting a bit too relaxed after bouncing MJ out. The rest is history, as Michael and the Bulls went on to achieve another three-peat while the Magic squad fell apart. At least Shaq took Jordan’s advice and went on to win his own rings in Los Angeles and Miami, becoming one of the most dominant forces the league has ever seen.
Stephen Curry did not create the Super Teams. Keep that in mind. when the NBA was an Alpha male league, the biggest stars on the circuit each tried to take over their respective teams, and bring down the biggest names « fairly ».😉